Catherine Ashton, Saeed Jalili Baghdad 390.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani)
Though the White House is publicly denying it, The New York Times is reporting
that the United States and Iran have agreed in principle for the first time to
one-on-one negotiations to stop Iran’s march toward nuclear
Based on anonymous “Obama-administration officials,” Iran’s
leaders have expressed a willingness to enter into direct negotiations after the
US presidential election – if the incumbent wins a second term.
option reportedly under consideration is “more for more” – more restrictions on
Tehran’s enrichment activities in return for more easing of sanctions.
Specifically, the US and other Western countries would allow the Islamic
Republic to develop a civilian nuclear power program industry on condition it
agrees to strict monitoring.
Apparently, this means Iran would be allowed
to maintain 3.5-percent enriched uranium, suitable for civilian use, and quit
producing 20% uranium, which has medical uses, but which can also be enriched to
weapons-grade 90% within two years according to most
Regardless of whether or not the Times
’ report is accurate, an
argument can be made for embarking on “one-on-one negotiations” with the
Iranians. Ideally, all parties involved would prefer a diplomatic solution to
With elections just two weeks off, President Barack Obama does not
want to be portrayed as willing to risk yet another American war in the Middle
East without first exhausting all positive alternatives.
economic sanctions, while preferable to a military operation, inevitably punish
the entire Iranian population – men, women and children. If the possibility
exists to peacefully end Iran’s aspirations for an atomic bomb why not explore
The problem is that Tehran has repeatedly used negotiations as nothing more
than a stalling tactic to push off sanctions or military actions – overt or
covert – while advancing toward nuclear arms capability.
Back in 2004 –
when Iran was fearful it might be the next in line after US military actions in
Iraq and Afghanistan, it signed the Paris Agreement with Britain, France and
Germany (the so-called EU-3) according to which Iran agreed to suspend its
But this deal soon fell apart, apparently after Iran
understood it was not in imminent danger of being attacked.
March the US, France, Britain, China, Russia and Germany (the so-called P5+1)
agreed to resume stalled talks with Tehran that had been held in 2010 and 2011.
The sides met in Istanbul in April, in Baghdad in May, in Moscow in June and
again in Istanbul in July. But none of these “negotiations” led
The Iranians sought to extract from the P5+1 relief from
sanctions, while the P5+1 demanded that Iran freeze its nuclear
How sincere can the Islamic Republic be about negotiations with
a coalition headed by the US, a country it calls “the big Satan.”
only is Iran responsible for the deaths of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of US
troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, but the Islamic Republic also aspires
to carry out terrorist attacks on American soil.
Just last week, Mansour
Arbabsiar, an Iranian-American used-car salesman, admitted in a Manhattan court
to plotting to kill the Saudi ambassador to the US in Washington. He also said
the plot had been directed and approved by senior members of the Quds Force, the
military arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards responsible for foreign operations
that reports directly to the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali
Still, perhaps negotiations should be given “one last chance,”
particularly unprecedented direct talks between Iran and the US. This should be
done not because we have faith such talks really have a chance of succeeding.
Rather, it should be done for the sake of the American people, and of the
citizens of other Western countries.
As sanctions continue to take their
toll and a military strike becomes more likely, Americans and citizens of other
Western countries should know that every option for a peaceful resolution to the
dispute with Iran has truly been exhausted.